By Velia Bolda   Published Jan 05, 2004 at 5:31 AM

{image1} It's family-owned, and like any family, it has its flaws. But like any good and well-intentioned member of the family, the new Tenuta's Italian restaurant is deserving of a little forgiveness and a second chance.

The restaurant, at 2995 S. Clement Ave. in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood, boasts its own "homemade" pasta. Unfortunately, it's a bit starchy. But the marinara sauce on the penne was zesty, and the meatballs were tasty and solid.

The Italian beef sandwich underwhelmed my dining companion, who described it as a little bland. The sandwiches, ranging in price from $5.95 to $8.95, are served with Italian potatoes or onion rings. The offerings include steak, meatball, sausage, a meatball and sausage combo, a sausage andbeef combo, sausage and peppers, chicken parmesan and Italian beef.

Prior to receiving our entrees, we nibbled on warm foccacia bread and rolls. The house dressing, set out on the tables, was a perfect vinaigrette match for the fresh greens of my salad.

The service was pleasant and friendly, but a bit overworked on the night we dined. When my companion and I walked in, we stood unacknowledged (with no sign indicating whether we should wait to be seated or seat ourselves) until the bartender finally nodded in our direction and said someone would "be right with us." At about 7 p.m.on a weekday, only one server worked the dining room floor. That seemed to be the reason for a delay in items arriving at our table.

It should be noted that we dined at Tenuta's just about a week after it opened for business, so presumably, some of the bugs will be worked out. But it is interesting to note that the owners operate two other restaurants in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Tenuta's décor was simple and basic in a slightly 1940s-inspired style, and the dining room and bathrooms were cheery and clean. The decibel level jumped from time to time in the medium-sized dining room, with the bar jutting out into the middle of it and without many walls or fabric to absorb or divide sound. A big plus is Tenuta's façade, replete with dark wood and charming stained glass windows. Situated on a corner, Tenuta's enjoys a location ideal for luring in locals and passers-by with its cozy glow.

Another plus is price. "Traditional Favorites" (spaghetti, penne and fettuccini) are just $5.95 and are served with garlic bread. The pasta dishes, such as capellini carbonara, ravioli and gnocchi, are all priced at $8.95 and come with a house salad and garlic bread. The entrees, with soup or house salad, range between $7.95 for the broasted chicken to $15.95 for the full-rack of baby back ribs. Pizza lovers will find a variety of toppings and crust choices of "Thin & Crispy," "Virgin Crust," "Deep Dish," and "Stuffed."

In and of itself, our dining experience at Tenuta's was less than extraordinary but it was certainly decent. And Tenuta's definitely earns some points for helping to fill a bit of a void in Milwaukee's increasingly popular Bay View neighborhood. Tenuta's is a welcome addition to the up-and-coming enclave just south of the Hoan. With a little time, Tenuta's will likely grow into a cherished local favorite.

For carry-out orders, call Tenuta's at (414) 431-1014.